by Alena Mae S. Flores – November 12, 2016 at 12:01 am
from Manila Standard Today
PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has given the Energy Department the go-ahead to look into the possibility of powering up the 620-megawatt Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, which was mothballed over safety concerns during the late 1980s.
At the inauguration of the 414-MW San Gabriel and 97-MW Avion natural gas plants in Batangas, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said he had talked to the President to seek clearance to proceed.
The President gave him the go-signal to look into the possibility of powering up the plant, giving full consideration to the safety and security of such an undertaking, he said.
“I gave him assurance that we will not do it recklessly…We are going to follow the strict measures of the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency],” Cusi said.
Only recently, Duterte said he did not want to pursue nuclear power during his term.
“He [President Duterte] did not change his mind. I explained to him what the country needs. As DoE, it is our responsibility to look [into] all of these… We have to look at it [based] on the future of the country,” Cusi added.
“Once and for all, we have to put closure for BNPP… either we use it or convert it, or the property will be put to waste,” Cusi said.
Cusi said the department is already doing the paperwork and preparing a roadmap for nuclear energy.
If the Bataan plant proves unfeasible, Cusi said, the Philippines could be looking into using modular, smaller nuclear plants.
“We can be cautious. We can move with caution so we can start with modular [plants]. We have to listen to the experts,” he said.
The government will need about $1 billion to repower the plant based on previous studies conducted.
Cusi admitted that there are opposing views on powering up the Bataan plant.
“We are ready to listen to that,” he said.
The department has created a Nuclear Energy Program Implementing Organization or Nepio, which will produce a comprehensive study and prepare a national infrastructure for the first nuclear power plant.
Cusi earlier pushed nuclear technology as a “viable choice for the country,” saying it was economical, reliable, and low on emissions.
“Personally, I’ve expressed my position about it. As DoE secretary, it is my duty to study all options to ensure the power supply in the coming generations,” he said.
Cusi also said that Filipinos should not be overtaken by fear of nuclear energy as the Philippines, even though the country is in the so-called Ring of Fire.
“Fear is always there…Since 1977, we were supposed to open that [the nuclear plant]. Had we opened that, our life would have been different. Because of fear, we did not open it…Don’t you think it’s a loss of opportunity to us?” he said.
Cusi also said reports and special studies have revealed that the “operation of nuclear plants has become safer, more predictable, and more dependable, with useful life of over 60 years.”
“We have to address the deep-seated social stigma and negative perception about nuclear energy…We also have to clear away decades-long half-truths, borne and exacerbated by highly prejudiced opinions conveniently dished out every time this matter of nuclear energy comes up. High on political innuendos, but lacking in scientific basis,” he said.
Cusi also said that the price per kilowatt-hour of nuclear power generated is “predictable,” unlike oil.
“Among all the studies, the cheapest power source is nuclear. We want to be competitive with the rest of our neighbors, so we have to come up with a cheap source of energy, and that is really nuclear,” he said.